Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Julio Alvarez


This research has investigated proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) of quinone/hydroquinone and other simple organic PCET species for the purpose of furthering the knowledge of the thermodynamic and kinetic effects due to reduction and oxidation of such systems. Each of these systems were studied involving the addition of various acid/base chemistries to influence the thermodynamics and kinetics upon electron transfer. It is the expectation that the advancement of the knowledge of acid/base catalysis in electrochemistry gleaned from these studies might be applied in fuel cell research, chemical synthesis, the study of enzymes within biological systems or to simply advance the knowledge of acid/base catalysis in electrochemistry. Furthermore, it was the intention of this work to evaluate a system that involved concerted-proton electron transfer (CPET), because this is the process by which enzymes are believed to catalyze PCET reactions. However, none of the investigated systems were found to transfer an electron and proton by concerted means. Another goal of this work was to investigate a system where hydrogen bond formation could be controlled or studied via electrochemical methods, in order to understand the kinetic and thermodynamic effects complexation has on PCET systems. This goal was met, which allowed for the establishment of in situ studies of hydrogen bonding via 1H-NMR methods, a prospect that is virtually unknown in the study of PCET systems in electrochemistry, yet widely used in fields such as supramolecular chemistry. Initial studies involved the addition of Brønsted bases (amines and carboxylates) to hydroquinones (QH2’s). The addition of the conjugate acids to quinone solutions were used to assist in the determination of the oxidation processes involved between the Brønsted bases and QH2’s. Later work involved the study of systems that were initially believed to be less intricate in their oxidation/reduction than the quinone/hydroquinone system. The addition of amines (pyridine, triethylamine and diisopropylethylamine) to QH2’s in acetonitrile involved a thermodynamic shift of the voltammetric peaks of QH2 to more negative oxidation potentials. This effect equates to the oxidation of QH2 being thermodynamically more facile in the presence of amines. Conjugate acids were also added to quinone, which resulted in a shift of the reduction peaks to more positive potentials. To assist in the determination of the oxidation process, the six pKa’s of the quinone nine-membered square scheme were determined. 1H-NMR spectra and diffusion measurements also assisted in determining that none of the added species hydrogen bond with the hydroquinones or quinone. The observed oxidation process of the amines with the QH2’s was determined to be a CEEC process. While the observed reduction process, due to the addition of the conjugate acids to quinone were found to proceed via an ECEC process without the influence of a hydrogen bond interaction between the conjugate acid and quinone. Addition of carboxylates (trifluoroacetate, benzoate and acetate) to QH2’s in acetonitrile resulted in a similar thermodynamic shift to that found with addition of the amines. However, depending on the concentration of the added acetate and the QH2 being oxidized, either two or one oxidation peak(s) was found. Two acetate concentrations were studied, 10.0 mM and 30.0 mM acetate. From 1H-NMR spectra and diffusion measurements, addition of acetates to QH2 solutions causes the phenolic proton peak to shift from 6.35 ppm to as great as ~11 ppm, while the measured diffusion coefficient decreases by as much as 40 %, relative to the QH2 alone in deuterated acetonitrile (ACN-d3). From the phenolic proton peak shift caused by the titration of each of the acetates, either a 1:1 or 1:2 binding equation could be applied and the association constants could be determined. The oxidation process involved in the voltammetry of the QH2’s with the acetates at both 10.0 and 30.0 mM was determined via voltammetric simulations. The oxidation process at 10.0 mM acetate concentrations involves a mixed process involving both oxidation of QH2 complexes and proton transfer from an intermediate radical species. However, at 30.0 mM acetate concentrations, the oxidation of QH2-acetate complexes was observed to involve an ECEC process. While on the reverse scan, or reduction, the process was determined to be an CECE process. Furthermore, the observed voltammetry was compared to that of the QH2’s with amines. From this comparison it was determined that the presence of hydrogen bonds imparts a thermodynamic influence on the oxidation of QH2, where oxidation via a hydrogen bond mechanism is slightly easier. In order to understand the proton transfer process observed at 10.0 mM concentrations of acetate with 1,4-QH2 and also the transition from a hydrogen bond dominated oxidation to a proton transfer dominated oxidation, conjugate acids were added directly to QH2 and acetate solutions. Two different acetate/conjugate acid ratios were focused on for this study, one at 10.0 mM/25.0 mM and another at 30.0 mM/50.0 mM. The results of voltammetric and 1H-NMR studies were that addition of the conjugate acids effects a transition from a hydrogen bond oxidation to a proton transfer oxidation. The predominant oxidation species and proton acceptor under these conditions is the uncomplexed QH2 and the homoconjugate of the particular acetate being studied, respectively. Furthermore, voltammetry of QH2 in these solutions resembles that measured with the QH2’s and added amines, as determined by scan rate analysis. In an attempt to understand a less intricate redox-active system under aqueous conditions, two viologen-like molecules were studied. These molecules, which involve a six-membered fence scheme reduction, were studied under buffered and unbuffered conditions. One of these molecules, N-methyl-4,4’-bipyridyl chloride (NMBC+), was observed to be reduced reversibly, while the other, 1-(4-pyridyl)pyridinium chloride (PPC+), involved irreversible reduction. The study of these molecules was accompanied by the study of a hypothetical four-membered square scheme redox system studied via digital simulations. In unbuffered solutions each species, both experimental and hypothetical, were observed to be reduced at either less negative (low pH) or more negative (high pH), depending on the formal potentials, pKa’s of the particular species and solution pH. The presence of buffer components causes the voltammetric peaks to thermodynamically shift from a less negative potential (low pH buffer) to a more negative potential (high pH buffer). Both of these observations have been previously noted in the literature, however, there has been no mention, to our knowledge, of kinetic effects. In unbuffered solutions the reduction peaks were found to separate near the pKa,1. While in buffered solutions, there was a noted peak separation throughout the pH region defined by pKa’s 1 and 2 (pKa,1 and pKa,2) of the species under study. The cause for this kinetic influence was the transition from a CE reduction at low pH to an EC reduction process at high pH in both buffered and unbuffered systems. This effect was further amplified via the study of the hypothetical species by decreasing the rate of proton transfer. In an effort to further this work, some preliminary work involving the attachment of acid/base species at the electrode surface and electromediated oxidation of phenol-acetate complexes has also been studied. The attachment of acid/base species at the surface is believed to assist in the observation of heterogeneous acid/base catalysis, similar to that observed in homogeneous acid/base additions to quinone/hydroquinone systems. Furthermore, our efforts to visualize a concerted mechanism are advanced in our future experiments involving electromediated oxidation of phenol-acetate complexes by inorganic species. It may be possible to interrogate the various intermediates more efficiently via homogeneous electron-proton transfer rather than heterogeneous electron transfer/homogeneous proton transfer.


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Date of Submission

August 2010

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